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Saturday, February 5, 2011

Who is J.J. Rendon?

J.J. Rendon

Taken from Livin in Peru written by Marco Sifuentes, and apdated by Jorge Riveros Cayo.
If you still don’t know who Juan José Rendón is, please take note: He is Venezuelan, introduces himself as an expert in “rumorology,” has been tagged as the “Caribbean Montesinos” but he sees himself as the protagonist of “Lie to Me.” He assures to have won 23 presidential campaigns but, in reality, who is counting? Oh… did I mention he has been hired by Luis Castañeda as his campaign marketing advisor?

Rendón is internationally reputed for being an expert in what is commonly known as dirty war. Part of his strategy is based on Internet; not on the obvious stuff (banners, social networks and Google positioning), but more on the subterranean side of the web. This was seen in the last Colombian campaign. While Antanas Mockus grew as a Facebook phenomenon, Santos’s team –advised by Rendón– moved into Internet at a different frequency.

In a column I published last year, I explained what were the virtues attributed to Rendón in that campaign: "disclosure of Mockus’ Parkinson disease in the web, disclosure –in webs as well as blogs– of the so-called links between Mockus and Hugo Chávez, creation of anonymous accounts against the Green Party and, in a gambit move, Santos, the candidate, opened an online 'Wall of Shame' where he gathered all the online dirty war against him and the other candidates, rejecting “practices against the 'candidate’s dignity' (but, cleverly, linking all these pages in order to increase hits and page rank)."

This strategy neutralized Mockus’ millions of fans in Facebook, that were so publicized. Having followers can be nice, but it doesn’t really help against a grand-scale dirty war.

In an interview published this week in El Comercio, Rendón conveniently treated the social networks like dirt, assuring that they don’t influence elections, and that self-promotion through Internet works in the United States or Germany, but not here.

In the meantime, the Egyptian government was forced to block initially Blackberry and Twitter connections, and eventually all the Internet in the country, as a pointless attempt to abate the violent demonstrations that were being organized through the social networks. Additionally, WikiLeaks filtered a cable from the U.S. Embassy in Egypt explaining the enormous influence of blogs in this country that discuss topics that are banned from public debate.

Egypt is not Germany or the United States –to quote Rendón’s examples– but even then, demonstrations organized through Internet in this country have generated the biggest crisis to the regime in the last 30 years.

According to Wolfram Alpha, Internet penetration in Peru is superior to Egypt’s (24.7 percent of Peruvians over 16.6 percent of Egyptians in 2008). The truth is that, when it comes to Internet (and Mockus probably learned the lesson) the size is not important, but the effectiveness of the message.

Nothing of this has to be explained to Rendón, who knows his business very well. As a matter of fact, this week a rumor was attributed to his authorship: an “attack” against Luis Castañeda. According to the ex mayor’s Twitter and Facebook account, somebody tried to crash the candidate’s car intentionally. Photos and documents were sent, the aggressor's capture was requested, you know, the whole package. They spread the rumor all day until, without any explanation at all, they forgot about it and deleted all traces of what they published. As you might suspect, there was never such an attack.

Not only Castañeda’s accounts spread the rumor, but also a bunch of phony Twitter accounts from, apparently, ordinary citizens that don’t exist and that are managed by “somebody” from the campaign team. The users @WonderChristie, @omarlito, @AndresFer10, @JimenaBarrios and @JorChot are some of the false identities that somebody at Solidaridad Nacional (Castañeda’s political movement) is using to attack other candidates and spread out shocking lies like the car incident.

The false car attack against Castañeda was a trial balloon. Very soon, Peruvian networks will be flooded with rumors that will make it to the headlines without you knowing how and where they came from. Although now we will know.

Luis Castañeda Lossio and J.J. Rendon

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